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Make Accountability Part of Your Design Practice

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Define business accountability.
  • Define social accountability.
  • Describe the framework organizations can use to demonstrate the business value of design.
  • Identify key considerations for building social value into the design process.

With Responsibility Comes Accountability

With the great privilege and responsibility of using design to mobilize both social and business value comes accountability. You can think of this accountability in two ways.

  • Business accountability involves reporting metrics, such as a product’s market and profit performance, to connect an organization’s internal work to things like revenue and optimization.
  • Social accountability involves assuming responsibility for how business decisions and activities affect society, including how they create a positive impact. Social accountability also consists of mitigating any adverse impacts of a product or service.

But how can organizations build both social and business value and the respective accountability into the design and build process? To answer this key question, let’s begin by looking at a framework used at Salesforce to activate the business value of design.

Beyond the Technical

To intentionally integrate business value into the design process, Salesforce Experience Design Director Jeroen van den Eijkhof, and his team often begin with a key question: What is the business outcome we want a product or service to accomplish?

This outcome goes beyond technical or functional product goals, such as specific features or target audiences, to long-term results and values, such as creating a unique, innovative competitive advantage. When they can align their work with the high-level, sustainable value they want a product or service to achieve, they create measurable impact.

Jeroen and his team also use a specific, four-step framework to make sure they activate the business value of design during their design process. Watch the video below to learn more about this framework.

To sum it up, Jeroen and his team mobilize the business value of design in four steps.

  1. Turn on the business mindset—the clear understanding of the long-term outcomes and value that an organization wants a product or service to achieve.
  2. Find a starting point. In other words, what does the business value of design look like at an organization? Earlier, you learned that organizations might realize the business value of design through improved internal processes or external experiences that create more efficiency and satisfaction for users and their networks. The specific way organizations achieve business value varies, so it’s key to understand what the business value looks like for a particular organization.
  3. Apply an integration process to deliver on the business value of design. Implementing a delivery mechanism for an organization’s vision enables it to integrate the business value of design across its organizational processes.
  4. Consider design maturity—the level at which design operates within an organization—to determine the impact an organization’s designers have. For example, an organization where design is core to its growth strategy will likely drive more impact by threading the business value framework through its entire organization.

When organizations use this framework to focus on business value from the start, they can also integrate business goals, like key performance indicators (KPIs), and correlate these to a product’s or service’s impact. This creates specific ways to report on a product’s or service's business value—business accountability in action.

Build In Social Value and Accountability

Organizations can use a similar strategy—intentionally building social value into the design process from the start—to create social accountability. Remember how you learned earlier that Bloomington Caregivers used the practice of relationship design to build both social and business value into the design process for its new app? Let’s take a closer look at how the organization generated both social value and accountability with design.

To ensure Bloomington Caregivers accounted for any blind spots around the impacts of its app on users and their communities, Bloomington Caregivers set up a diverse advisory council. Bloomington Caregivers worked with the council, using its expertise and lived experience to inform and drive key design decisions on making its app more inclusive. Through this process, Bloomington Caregivers intentionally made sure that its inclusivity efforts were more than an afterthought, including the council’s feedback from the beginning and throughout the process. Additionally, Bloomington Caregivers made sure it wasn’t making any trade-offs through these efforts, keeping the focus on long-term social value while balancing very real day-to-day business concerns.

Social Value, from the Start

In short, when organizations don’t take the time to invest in creating social value as a part of their design process from the beginning, their ability to add those considerations at a midway point or the end is difficult and expensive. But when organizations set a target for positive social impact early on, they can implement internal initiatives to ensure they’re accountable.

Next, look at a process organizations can use to create positive social impacts by considering and addressing the potential consequences of a product or service during the design and build process: Consequence Scanning.


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